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Poetry News In Review

March 20, 2012

Poetry News In Review

Edited By David Sanders

Specimen Days

March 20, 2012

43 BC – Ovid, Roman poet (d. 17), is born.

1799 – Karl August Nicander, Swedish poet (d. 1839), is born.

1868 – Obe Postma, Frisian poet/geography/historian (Frisian Clay Farm), is born.

1848 – Abraham des Amorie van der Hoeven, Dutch theologist/poet, dies at 27.

1874 – Börries von Münchhausen, German poet (d. 1945), is born.

1897 – Apollon Maykov, Russian poet (b. 1821), dies.

1933 – Alexander Gorodnitsky, Russian geologist and poet, is born.

1943 – Gerard Malanga, American poet and photographer, is born.
1964 – Brendan Behan, Irish writer/poet, dies at 41.

1972 – Jan Engelman, Dutch poet/art critic (At the Front), dies at 71.

Gerard Malanga

… and now he sits deeply absorbed in his thoughts
as he’d done many times past, in the colors on colors,
and consumed by his demons
near the Boat Basin Central Park West
when the sky turned overcast with that wintry 4 o’clock hue.
The sun thickly veiled. The few
birds that had landed and then gone to rest.

—from “Mark Rothko” by Gerard Malanga

World Poetry

Divine Comedy is 'offensive and discriminatory', Says Italian NGO

Dante's medieval classic The Divine Comedy has been condemned as racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic by a group calling for it to be removed from classrooms. The epic poem, written in the 14th century, is split into three parts, tracing the poet's journey through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is seen as one of the cornerstones of world literature. But the Italian human rights organisation Gherush92, which advises UN bodies on human rights issues, wants it to be removed from school curriculums, or at least used with more caution, because it is "offensive and discriminatory" and young people lack the "filters" to understand it in context. Read more at the Guardian.

Arabic Poetry Encyclopedia to Debut at ADIBF 2012

The 22nd annual Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2012, scheduled to get under way later this month, today announced details of its Cultural Programme. As part of the programme, the best of Arab and international authors will gather in Abu Dhabi to hold a diverse and rich mix of panels, talks, debates and book signing sessions. Alongside the stimulating discussions on literature, the book fair will also mark the debut of the Arabic Poetry Encyclopedia. The Arabic Poetry Encyclopedia, a comprehensive reference to Arabic poetry, its methods of use and a glimpse into some of the most important sources of Arab poetry to date. Read more at Middle East Online.

Uganda: Mpanga's Poetry Takes Him to Stardom

At 21, Mpanga, aka George the Poet, has achieved more than most people do in a lifetime. Born and raised in London to Kato and Edith Mpanga, he escaped the harsh realities black men usually suffer in London by turning his passion for rap and poetry into a platform for social injustice discourse. His passion has been a constant companion from grammar school at Queen Elizabeth's Boys and it remains loyal to him at Cambridge University, where he is currently pursuing a degree in Politics, Psychology and Sociology. "I used to perform to audiences all the time, usually young people. They like listening to things they can relate to and I try to use as much humour as possible," said Mpanga. Read more at All Africa.

Recent Reviews

A Virtuoso American Poet of the Appetites
Jack Gilbert

by Dwight Gardner
Several people in my life revere Jack Gilbert. They push photocopies of his poems solemnly across tables at me, as if they were salary offers or handguns or unusual drugs. Here, they say. Read this. Among the poems by Mr. Gilbert that get passed around like samizdat is a bonsai-size heartbreaker titled “Games,” from his 1982 collection “Monolithos.” Read more at the New York Times.

Everyday People by Albert Goldbarth

by Elizabeth Cantwell
What more appropriate way to begin a book about "everyday people" than with a quote by a figure so "everyday" he doesn't even have a stub Wikipedia page to his name? I suppose there is the chance that Goldbarth fabricated both Burch and the quote, though I suspect it's more likely that he dug this epigraph up in some forgotten, obscure publication; in any case, even if Burch is invented, we all know that little lies are the fuel of everyday life. Read more at Bookslut.

Grasshopper: The Poetry of M. A. Griffiths

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen
So, when dozens of poets around the globe admire and respect a poet’s work so much they spend countless hours finding, collecting and cataloguing her poems from various online sites and then publishing them in an extensive collection after her untimely death, we know this is a poet who made a significant impact. Read more at New York Quarterly Reviews.


A Letter from Oceania

Gregory O'Brien
The poems are lifted high into the air by a great hook and swung above a tempestuous sea. So begins their final approach to Raoul Island. The poetry books are inside a white sack which moves like a cloud above the deck of the HMNZS Otago then continues outwards, to be dropped into an inflatable boat. A diesel-powered hoist and derrick - with another conspicuously dangling hook - can be seen on the headland which is the destination of the bag-boat. Everything that reaches the island comes and goes by way of a hook. Read more at PN Review.

Korean Beat Attitudes: Rainhat Poet and Ko Un

John R. Eperjesi
Hip hop first appeared in Korea in the 1990s with rappers such as Seo Taiji and DJ Doc. But the title of first rapper should probably go to Kim Byeong-yeon aka Kim Sat-gat aka Kim Lip aka Rainhat Poet, who was spitting rhymes and battling poets all over the peninsula way back in the day -- the mid-1800s. The life of Rainhat was given respect in the first rap song in Korea, Hong Seo-bum's "Kim Sat-gat" from 1989. A twenty-year-old Kim Byeong-yeon, after learning that he disrespected his grandfather in a poem, left his mother, wife, and child, put on a reed rain hat typically worn by farmers and fishermen, and began wandering the mountains of Korea. Reborn as the Rainhat poet, he spent his days and nights improvising songs, drinking rice wine, partying with other poets, flirting with young farm girls, satirizing the wealthy, mentoring other poets and praising the mountain spirits. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Drafts & Fragments

Video: NBCC Finalists Reading for 2011 Awards

by David Aarno
Forrest Gander, Core Samples from the World (New Directions)
Aracelis Girmay, Kingdom Animalia (BOA Editions)
Laura Kasischke, Space, in Chains (Copper Canyon Press)
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press)
[The poetry reading begins at minute 31.00]
The recipient of the award in poetry was Laura Kasischke. Her reading begins at minute 37.30.

Poetry In The News

Signing Hands Across the Water Poetry Festival at Swarthmore College

At traditional poetry events, poets read their written work aloud. But this weekend, Swarthmore College shows that not all poetry is composed in a written language, or even in a language that can be spoken. "Signing Hands Across the Water" is a sign language poetry festival featuring American and British poets who express themselves through movement rather than by speaking. Read more at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Cambridge University Student Suspended for Poem

Hundreds have protested at Cambridge University over the 2 1/2-year suspension of a student who interrupted a politician's speech with a poem. Graduate student Owen Holland was this week banned until October 2014 by the university's Court of Discipline. He disrupted a November speech by Universities Minister David Willetts with a poem entitled "Go Home, David." Read more at the Boston Globe.

New Books

Frank O'Hara: Poems from the Tibor De Nagy Editions, 1952-1966

[Paperback] Tibor de Nagy Editions, 72 pp., $15.00
In 1952, the New York gallery Tibor de Nagy published A City Winter, Frank O'Hara's first collection of poems, under the Tibor de Nagy Editions imprint, inaugurating the gallery's now longstanding association with what has come to be known as the New York School of poetry. O'Hara had been in the city for barely a year, but was already immersing himself in its art scenes, becoming especially close to Grace Hartigan, and collaborating on a series of poem-pictures which Tibor de Nagy exhibited in 1953.

Notturno by Gabriele D'Annunzio, translated by Stephen Sartarelli

[Hardcover] Yale University Press, 344 pp., $28.00
Composed during a period of extended bed rest, Gabriele D'Annunzio's Notturno is a moving prose poem in which imagination, experience, and remembrance intertwine. The somber atmosphere of the poem reflects the circumstances of its creation. With his vision threatened and his eyes completely bandaged, D'Annunzio suffered months of near-total blindness and pain-wracked infirmity in 1921, and yet he managed to write on small strips of paper, each wide enough for a single line. When the poet eventually regained his sight, he put together these strips to create the lyrical and innovative Notturno.

Janet's Cottage by D.H. Tracy

[Hardcover] St. Augustines Press, 90 pp., $24.00
D. H. Tracy’s debut volume, winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize, a major event in contemporary poetry. Janet’s Cottage collects the richly textured, highly musical poems that have become Tracy’s hallmark in America’s finest journals. Tracy brings buoyant wit and piercing intelligence to a range of poetic subjects, both intimate and domestic and exotic and far-flung. The unique vision of the world that he conveys in poem after poem dazzles at first and is sure to stay with readers long after.

The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland edited by Chris Agee

[Paperback] Wake Forest University Press, 301 pp., $19.95
The New North is a landmark anthology of contemporary poetry from Northern Ireland with a wide-ranging introduction that gives the reader valuable historical perspective into political and cultural contexts. A brief selection of classic poems by more established authors introduces the featured poets (born between 1956 and 1975); together they represent the past and the future of poetry in this small but fertile culture.


Poetry Questions: Maxine Kumin
Maxine Kumin

by Rebecca Foresman
Before winning the 1973 Pulitzer Prize, before bolstering the representation of women in contemporary poetry during her tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate, from 1981-82, Maxine Kumin began a fruitful relationship with The New Yorker, in 1957, when her poem “The Rites” appeared in our pages. Over the ensuing fifty-five years, Kumin has published thirty-one poems in the magazine. Her latest piece, “Truth,” was featured in last week’s issue. I spoke with Kumin about the poem and her work at large. Read more at the New Yorker.

Los Angeles Iranian Poet Writes in Persian about Life in America: 'I have both worlds within me'

by Ruxandra Guidi
After living half his life in the U.S. for about 30 years, Majid Naficy is equal parts Iranian and American. “I see myself as an Iranian-American poet," said Naficy, sitting in his living room on a recent afternoon. "I was born in Iran, I was raised in Iran, but then I moved here. So I have both worlds within me.” The conditions under which Naficy was forced to leave Iran are something that has informed his poetry ever since. Read more at Southern California Public Radio.

Poet Mark Strand Touches On Loss, Also Humor

by Alex Ashlock
A long time ago, in another lifetime, at another radio station, I had to fill in as the host of our daily talk show, when the regular host called in sick. Best thing that ever happened to me. The guest was the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Mark Strand. I knew his name but not his poetry, but by chance I had just read a magazine piece he had written about the classic American painter, Edward Hopper. Read more at Here and Now.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

A Befitting Celebration of Poetry

by Dennis B. Muhumuza
“As poets it is our duty to feel, to learn and unlearn, to be present and not absent and to remind ourselves and those around us of our very human nature through our gift of words.” Those words by Beverly Nambozo will carry refreshed meaning and significance during the World Poetry Day celebrations in Kampala next Wednesday. Celebrated every March 21, World Poetry Day was inaugurated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation in 1999 to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry as well as to reflect on the power of language and development of creative abilities in individuals. Read more at the Sunday Monitor.

I confess— until I stumbled on this article from Uganda I was clueless about the fact that World Poetry Day was tomorrow (March 21). Not that the United Nations has put a lot of resources into publicizing it (Here's the webpage devoted to it— slightly more than IHOP has done, but they are pretty busy at the UN.). But now that I know that there is a World Poetry Day and that it is tomorrow, plans are being made, chez moi. Plan A: read and re-read non-Anglophone poets whose books I've acquired over the past year including Szymborska, Ho Xuan Huong, Magrelli, Zagajewski, Transtromer, Djordjevic, and Rosselli. Plan B: work on translations. Plan C: try to figure out new ways to discover more about what's going on in the rest of the world regarding poets and poetry.

To help you start your own celebration, here are three websites worth browsing: Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today, and Poetry International Web. And remember: be safe. If you think it's going to turn into a party, be sure to choose a designated reader.
—David Sanders

View Past Issues

Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Norman MacCaig
Ezra Pound
Robert Bridges
Robert Herrick
Nicanor Parra
John Betjeman
Mary Jo Salter
Rosario Castellanos
Anne Hebert
Ahmad Shamlou
Donald Davie
Kenneth Fearing
Geoffrey Hill
Sandro Penna
Juan Ramon Jimenez
Julia Randall
Emily Dickinson
Gary Snyder
Yannis Ritsos
Robert Penn Warren
Aime Cesaire
Bella Akhmadulina
George Herbert
Louis Simpson
Gerard Malanga
Mahmoud Darwish
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Kostis Palama
A.M. Klein
David Ignatow
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy